Before we booked our trip to Santorini and Mykonos, Jeremy and I agreed to add an additional 3 days in Venice because, well why not? Plus it was going to be my first trip to Italy and I just couldn’t resist! The only downside was that it would leave us getting back to New York late on Sunday with little time to spare before going to work on Monday. But we stuck to our usual mantra, “We’ll sleep when we’re dead,” and decided it was worth squeezing in!
We arrived at Venice Marco Polo airport early Thursday morning, after taking a flight from Mykonos (with a short layover in Athens). We collected our luggage and to Jeremy’s surprise, made our way to the water taxi stand. As a surprise, I had pre-booked our very own private water taxi to take us from the airport directly to the hotel. It was a splurge (100 euros), as was the hotel I booked for our first night. Basically, I was determined to turn this trip into a second honeymoon. After all this is Venice, one of the most romantic cities in the world!
Our private water taxi dropped us off right in front of Hotel Canal Grande (surprise #2 for Jeremy…I think he thought we’d be checking into a budget hotel or Airbnb). Hotel Canal Grande is a 4 star boutique hotel set directly on the Grand Canal just outside the bustling center of Venice. As we docked right at the door, the hotel staff kindly greeted us and escorted us to the check-in desk. I immediately felt transported to another place and in another time as I walked in. The final surprise was an upgrade to the Prestige Junior Suite (the Prestige Double Room just wouldn’t do). Then, since travels started at 3am that day, we decided to take it easy for a couple hours and enjoy our luxurious suite and spa-like bathroom.
After a little rest, we set out to explore Venice for the day. It wasn’t long until Jeremy began craving some authentic Italian pizza so we stopped at a little café tucked somewhere within the winding streets of the city (I’m not sure how long I would have to wander to find this place again.) However, The pizza did not disappoint.
We eventually made it to our destination, Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square). While it was crowded and filled with tourists, the beauty was remarkable. From the center of the square we could see St. Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace, the Clock Tower and St. Mark’s Campanile.
We decided to purchase a ticket to the top of St. Mark’s Campanile at a cost of only 8 Euros per person (we highly recommend putting this on your to-do list, and also encourage everyone to get the audio guide or download it to your device before you go). This bell tower allows you to get a bird’s eye view of the city including the canals and islands surrounding Venice. After completing our self-guided tour of the bell tower, we continued to walk around the square and take in the sights. We eventually stopped at one of the café’s in the square and enjoyed a couple beverages while doing one our other favorite things…people watching.
As evening neared, we slowly walked back to our hotel taking the scenic route, getting lost in the shops and cafes along the way. For dinner that night, we decided to stay close and dine at a restaurant just across the canal from our hotel.
The next morning, we took full advantage of our “fancy” hotel amenities and woke up extra early to secure a spot for breakfast on the hotel’s tiny balcony on the canal. Breakfast was included in our stay and it was all you can eat, so I had no problem dragging Jeremy out of bed.
After fueling up for the day, we took advantage of our hotel’s complimentary private water taxi service to the island of Murano. This came highly recommended from our hotel so we were excited to learn all about the art of Venetian glass making. Our hotel stay included a private tour of a local glass blowing factory and afterwards a tour of their showroom where beautiful glass pieces were up for sale (and way over our budget).
Afterwards, I’m fairly sure we were expected to take the hotel’s private water taxi back to the hotel, but Jeremy, being the rebel that he is, decided we should make a break for it. Next thing I know he has us ducking under a couple windows and hopping over the fence surrounding the factory. Soon, we were wondering into the neighboring glass blowing factories and souvenir shops. I began to see how much more of the island there was to explore. We later stopped for lunch (yes, more pizza and pasta) and then loaded up on plenty of souvenirs.
After lunch and shopping, it was time to head back to meet our Airbnb host that afternoon and check in to our apartment for the next 2 nights. We took the public waterbus from Murano back to our hotel grabbed our luggage and boarded the waterbus again taking us from the hotel to our meeting point at the San Toma waterbus stop. Travel tip: the waterbus system is the cheapest way to get around (besides walking). The water taxis are very expensive so unless you’re on your honeymoon (like we briefly pretended to be) or have cash to spare, avoid taking these.
Our Airbnb host guided us to our private apartment for the next 2 nights. It was a little off the beaten path and I would have gotten lost a million times if Jeremy wasn’t with me. It was the perfect location outside of the main touristy areas…we really felt like the locals here. Our apartment had plenty of space for us to settle in and get comfortable with a beautiful private terrace (I was sold after I saw the first picture on Airbnb). We were able to relax for a while after dragging our luggage to the apartment, hearing the Bell Tower ringing in the distance each hour. Then as evening approached Jeremy tells me he has a plan for us. He drags me along the pathways until we arrive at a private gondola tour. There are many places along the canals to hire a gondola (no need to book in advance) so we settled on one that included a 60-minute private tour. We maneuvered through the narrow waterways past all the well-known monuments including the famous Rialto Bridge as well as some of the other smaller waterways. We passed many cafes, churches and beautiful Venetian homes. Finally, our guide even serenated us with a romantic song as we neared the end of the tour. It just couldn’t get any more romantic!
After the gondola ride we took to wandering the streets again as the evening crowds were picking up. We enjoyed seeing more of the architecture, culture and people before eventually stopping at another outdoor café for dinner (you guessed it…more pasta and pizza…mmm!)
For our final day, we settled on exploring the city some more on foot. We slept in longer than usual before heading out in search of breakfast. Not far from our apartment we stumbled on a café with a breakfast special: cornetto, cappuccino and orange juice (for 4 euros or something like that). I was sold! We took our time eating and people watching, then we were off to explore. We took pictures on nearly every canal as each waterway offered a different backdrop…it’s not every day you find yourself surrounded by countless canals and bridges. We later came up to an area called Punta della Dogana which offered impressive views of the turquoise canals set among the beautiful monuments and churches, most notably Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute.
At some point, Jeremy had signed us up for a small guided tour of St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace.(Venice, the power of the past, the everlasting myth) I remember thinking it was fairly expensive, but it ended up being one of the highlights of our trip. We had a very small group (maybe 5 of us all together) and our guide was extremely knowledgeable. We started off with St. Mark’s Basilica, the city’s most famous church, built in 1071. The inside of the church was incredible to see and hard to believe it was a thousand years old. Our guide explained the significance of each part of the tour. If traveling in the summer, we recommend buying your ticket online in advance (only 2 Euros) or take a guided tour so that you can skip the long lines. Also, be sure to dress appropriately respecting the sacredness of the basilica: no shorts or tank tops.
Our second stop was the Doge’s Palace located just next door. This structure housed the Doge as well as other political institutions including a prison until the late 1700’s. It now serves as a museum and again we highly recommend a guided tour because not only is it massive, but a guide may provide you with the history to accompany all of the art and architecture. Plan for at least 1 ½ to 2 hours to tour Doge’s Palace.
After working up an appetite, we ended up having a late lunch at yet another outdoor café (you guessed it, more pizza). Afterwards, we retired to our apartment and sat out on our beautiful terrace overlooking the rooftops and soaking up our last Venetian sunset.
The next morning, we were up early to pack and catch a 9:50am train from Venezia Santa Lucia train station. The train ride was beautiful as we passed through the Italian countryside en route to Milan. Once we got to Milan we had a direct flight to New York.
Venice is one of the most romantic cities I’ve even been to. It honestly felt like a second honeymoon and we couldn’t help but embrace the relaxed Italian way of life even during our short time there. Ciao Venice!